How To Create A Culture of Accountability In The Workplace (7 Tips)

Last Updated: October 28, 2023 | by Paul Harstrom

Accountability In The Workplace: Suppose you happen to be a leader for whom accountability remains a somewhat elusive concept, and you find yourself unsure how to integrate it into your corporate culture seamlessly.

In that case, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we will share seven highly effective tips to create a culture of Leadership accountability within your workplace.

In the absence of individuals taking the initiative to make decisions, confront challenges, and find resolutions, tasks often linger in an unfinished state. For managers and leaders striving to maintain a firm grip on the progress of projects, creating a culture of accountability and having a profound dedication to it becomes absolutely essential.

At LEAD Diligently, we redefine accountability as a personal choice to transcend one’s circumstances and take ownership of doing the right thing. It requires courage, transparency, and alignment.

We introduce a positive and principled view of accountability, making it a valuable tool for propelling your organization forward.

What Is A Workplace Accountability?

The term “accountable” is often equated with “responsibility” in most dictionaries. However, over the past three decades, as we’ve discussed “accountability” in workplace culture, it has evolved to encompass deeper nuances. 

How To Create A Culture of Accountability In The Workplace with 7 Tips

Being accountable now goes beyond mere ownership of your work; it means owning your company’s goals and outcomes, reflecting a profound psychological commitment.

When we think of “accountability,” we often associate it with being in a challenging situation or at the center of a workplace problem. It’s commonly linked to taking the blame for a mistake. 

However, accountability extends beyond mere responsibility. It involves approaching your tasks with dedication and a strong sense of ownership.

“Accountability is the glue that holds teams together and makes them successful.” 

Roger Connors

Workplace accountability means that each employee takes personal responsibility for their actions, behavior, job performance, and choices. It’s also tied to an increased dedication to work and improved employee morale, resulting in enhanced performance.

This concept includes recognizing that the outcomes of your actions affect your colleagues and the company’s overall performance. 

Employees who embrace accountability take responsibility for the results and don’t pass the buck to others. In essence, it’s the opposite of shifting responsibility.

How To Create A Culture Of Accountability In the Workplace:

Being accountable for one’s actions and responsibilities is a choice individuals must make. It can’t be imposed forcefully. People must willingly embrace responsibility for their work and actions.

As a leader, your role is cultivating a workplace environment where people feel comfortable and motivated to take ownership of their work. 

In such an environment, employees naturally share their progress, commit to achieving their goals, and make the right decisions because they want to, not because they are compelled.

Trying to enforce accountability on unwilling individuals can lead to resistance. It’s like attempting to make someone do something they don’t want, often resulting in opposition and hostility. 

In such a scenario, using coercive tactics to make people transparent can create a culture where employees push back against such efforts.

The key takeaway is that accountability should ideally be people’s choice because they recognize its value. It’s not about forcing them to be accountable but about creating a workplace environment where accountability is a natural and positive aspect of team operations. 

Importance Of Creating A Culture Of Workplace Accountability:

Accountability is a cornerstone of a thriving workplace culture. Its importance can be assessed with several crucial benefits it offers. 

Firstly, it fosters predictability and trustworthiness. Accountable individuals can be relied upon to fulfill their commitments, creating trust within the team. They communicate openly about any challenges, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Secondly, accountability promotes ownership and responsibility. Rather than adopting a victim mentality, accountable individuals take ownership of their assigned goals and metrics. They understand the direct impact of their performance on the team’s success, motivating them to meet or exceed standards.

Additionally, accountability drives performance improvement.

Team members are more committed to achieving their goals, as they don’t want to be the ones letting the team down. This commitment leads to improved performance and the desire to avoid disappointing colleagues.

Graphic depicting steps and strategies for establishing a culture of accountability in organizations

Moreover, accountable individuals take ownership of mistakes. Instead of making excuses, they acknowledge and address problems, contributing to better problem-solving and improved performance over time.

Early problem identification is another critical aspect. In a culture of accountability, obstacles and challenges are revealed promptly, preventing last-minute surprises that could derail projects. This early identification is crucial for maintaining progress.

Hence, creating a culture of accountability in the workplace is a powerful catalyst for execution. Team members who are accountable for their tasks are more likely to follow through and complete them.

This consistent execution, driven by individual and collective accountability, enables the achievement of goals and milestones.

Leadership + Management = Accountability:

In Gino Wickman’s book “How to Be a Great Boss,” accountability is closely tied to both leadership and management within an organization. Wickman outlines that leadership involves the high-level strategic aspects of running a business. 

Click here to read our book review of How to Be a Great Boss.

Leaders work “on” the business, focusing on providing a clear direction and creating a vision for the organization. They also create opportunities for their team members, fostering a sense of purpose and direction. This visionary approach to leadership helps set the stage for accountability by outlining the goals and objectives.

On the other hand, as per Wickman’s framework, management deals with the practical, day-to-day operations of the business. It involves working “in” the business, where managers ensure that clear expectations are set, communication is efficient, and tasks are completed as planned. 

In this context, accountability is realized by making sure that things get done as intended, and it is gained through what Wickman refers to as “Traction” – ensuring that the organization’s efforts move in a coordinated and productive direction.

Wickman emphasizes that both leadership and management play essential roles in promoting accountability. Leadership sets the vision and direction, while management ensures that the necessary steps are taken to realize that vision, ultimately creating a workplace accountability culture. 

This holistic approach aligns the strategic aspects of leadership with the practical aspects of management to achieve organizational success.

7 Tips To Create A Culture Of Leadership Accountability In The Workplace:

Following practices creates leadership accountability within a healthy and successful workplace.

Great Leaders Set The Example For Accountability:

This means that accountability starts with leaders and cascades down through the organization. People tend to mimic the behavior of their leaders

If a leader hides mistakes or lies about them, team members might feel compelled to do the same to protect themselves. On the other hand, when leaders openly address their errors, team members are encouraged to do likewise. This is important because it promotes honesty and authenticity. 

So, if leaders are accountable for their actions and decisions, it creates a culture where accountability is valued and expected at all levels.

Consider the example of Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. When the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket failed three times, Musk took full responsibility, stating, “I’m the leader here; I have to take responsibility.” This accountability from the top sets a tone for the entire organization. 

According to a survey by The Workforce Institute, 91% of employees believe that their manager’s accountability is critical for building a culture of accountability in the workplace.

Also, read Leaders are the Example, NOT the Exception

Avoiding Blame Games and Owning Responsibility:

Accountable leaders refrain from blaming their team members when things go wrong. Instead, they take full responsibility for any issues or failures within their team. This means they don’t engage in the practice of pointing fingers or making excuses. 

They acknowledge their role in the situation and focus on understanding the root causes of challenges. For example, they might examine factors such as workload, training, or team dynamics to figure out why a problem occurred.

A powerful example of avoiding blame comes from Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven years. He didn’t blame his captors but took responsibility for his mindset and actions. This attitude helped him survive and eventually lead his fellow prisoners. 

According to a Gallup survey, only 13% of employees worldwide strongly agree that their organization’s leaders always hold themselves accountable for their actions.

Also, read Traits Of Disciplined Leadership As Taught By Jim Collins

Team Empowerment and Support:

Accountable leaders recognize that team members generally want to perform well. It’s often because they lack guidance or support when they don’t. 

Instead of blaming their team, accountable leaders understand their responsibility to provide necessary training, context, or assistance for their team members to succeed. They empower their team by offering everyone the resources and support needed to excel.

Google’s Project Aristotle found that one of the critical traits of high-performing teams is psychological safety, where team members feel safe to take risks. Accountable leaders create this safety by offering guidance and support. 

As the Harvard Business Review notes, organizations with high accountability are more likely to have a workforce that feels empowered and motivated.

Shifting The Focus From Assigning Blame To Finding Solutions:

Instead of fixating on who is at fault, accountable leaders actively seek ways to address the underlying problems. For instance, if a team member is underperforming, they explore whether that person requires additional support, training, or a different role within the team. 

In case of a problem or failure, accountable leaders don’t just take responsibility; they take proactive steps to rectify the issue. They view it as their duty to find solutions and make things right, thereby addressing problems and preventing recurrence.

A great example of shifting focus to solutions comes from the medical field. When a mistake is made in healthcare, building accountability into your culture promotes the practice of conducting root-cause analyses to prevent future errors, ensuring that everyone in the organization is held responsible for their actions and contributing to a safer and more reliable healthcare system. This approach has saved lives and improved patient care. 

According to a study by Deloitte, 86% of employees believe that a lack of accountability in the workplace can lead to increased stress and frustration.

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” 

Stephen R. Covey

Define Your Goals Clearly:

When we talk about clarity in goals, it means having a precise and well-defined target. Imagine you’re leading a sales team and want them to increase their sales numbers. If you tell them to do “more sales,” it’s vague and lacks clarity. 

Instead, you should set specific sales targets, like increasing sales by 20% in the next quarter. This clarity gives your team a clear aim to work towards. 

Set SMART GOALS to Create A Culture of Accountability

To hold someone accountable, you need to be clear about what tasks they are responsible for and your expectations for those tasks. 

Establish Trust As The Foundation For Accountability:

To create a culture of accountability, trust is an essential building block. For people to take responsibility for their actions and openly admit their mistakes, they must trust that their leaders and colleagues won’t respond with punishment or scapegoating. 

This trust involves allowing team members to make mistakes without facing severe consequences. It’s not an endorsement of laziness or carelessness; instead, it recognizes that everyone, regardless of their skills or experience, will occasionally make mistakes or encounter uncontrollable circumstances.

building a culture of accountability

Permission to fail is an opportunity for learning and growth. When employees know they won’t face harsh penalties for making mistakes, they become more willing to take calculated risks, experiment with new ideas, and learn from their experiences.

Creating an environment where failure is met with understanding rather than blame empowers team members to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas freely.

Click here to read 7 Reasons Why Employees Are a Company’s Valuable Assets Not Liabilities

Use Scorecard To Track Performance:

 A scorecard can indeed help create a culture of accountability in an organization. A well-structured scorecard typically includes key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that align with the organization’s strategic objectives. 

A scorecard promotes a culture of accountability by providing a transparent, visible, and data-driven framework for tracking and measuring progress, aligning individual efforts with organizational objectives, and encouraging a sense of responsibility and ownership among team members.

By regularly updating and sharing the scorecard with the team, individuals can see how their efforts contribute to the organization’s overall success. This holds them accountable for their specific responsibilities and encourages a sense of ownership and pride in their contributions. 

Moreover, knowing that their performance is being monitored and measured through the scorecard, employees are more likely to take responsibility for their actions and work diligently to meet or exceed the established targets.

To know more about scorecards, Continue reading What Is EOS? Insights From the Book “Get A Grip”

Conclusion of Culture of Accountability in the Workplace:

Creating a culture of accountability in the workplace is a critical factor for success. By following the seven key tips leaders can create an environment where employees feel empowered to take ownership of their actions, learn from their mistakes, and contribute to the overarching objectives of the company. 

The insights from Gino Wickman’s “How to Be a Great Boss” and the principles outlined by LEAD Diligently emphasize the importance of combining leadership and management while nurturing a climate of trust and psychological safety. 

This approach not only enhances individual and team performance but also leads to innovation, open communication, and a stronger, more accountable workplace culture.

 Did you find these Tips useful? Share your thoughts and insights on creating accountability in the comments below!

How LEAD Diligently Can Help You

Lead Diligently offers expert-led leadership development programs to help you build business executive skills & advance profitable enterprises.

We are on a mission to help our clients gain the clarity they need to wholly pursue their God-given purpose and grow profitable enterprises.


Why is it important to create a culture of accountability in the workplace?

Creating a culture of accountability in the workplace is essential because it promotes responsibility, enhances teamwork, and boosts overall performance, resulting in increased productivity and achievement of organizational goals.

How does permission to failure increase accountability in the workplace?

Granting permission to fail encourages accountability by creating a safe environment where employees are not afraid to admit mistakes, promoting a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and innovation.

What is the Gino Wickman strategy to create a culture of accountability?

Gino Wickman’s strategy for creating a culture of accountability, as outlined in his book “How to Be a Great Boss,” emphasizes the importance of accountable leadership and management, focusing on both visionary leadership and day-to-day operations, while fostering trust and psychological safety within the organization.

What are the benefits of accountability in the workplace?

Accountability in the workplace leads to better performance, stronger teamwork, and the successful attainment of the organization’s objectives.

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